Worse Than Al-Qaida

Morgue Overflow Into Hospital Corridor

Today we commemorate the nineteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack, in which some 3,000 Americans lost their lives in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.

We are fighting another enemy now that has killed 200,000 Americans this year to date, and infected 6.5 million of our countrymen with a virulent disease which we are just beginning to understand. Many thousands of those dead from coronavirus died needlessly, and millions of those afflicted with the virus need not have suffered from it.

Solidly to blame is our leadership in the White House. President Trump persistently downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak (though now he claims he knew back then the danger). Millions of Americans did not know what to think. Many Trump voters now claim there was no pandemic, and that all this is false news. They refuse to wear face masks—largely because their President has sent mixed messages, frequently at variance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Even people think less of Trump than I do (there must be some, somewhere) are confused as to what to do in the face of the outbreak.

I hold Trump responsible for thousands of deaths and millions of sickened Americans. One of the responsibilities of those in power is to make sure the right information gets to the people. It didn’t, with horrendous results.

Very few other countries had an experience as bad as ours, with so many needless casualties due to misinformation. To cover his ass, Trump lied that we had done better than any other country.

Why do people still believe his lies? I guess it’s a case of misplaced faith, as Mr. Spock explains below:

I’ll Go Along With That

 

Pining for the Pyramids

Maya King at Mérida Anthropology and History Museum

With the continuing bad news of the continuing ravages of the coronavirus, I begin to wonder whether I will ever again be able to travel. Of the countries that have encountered the virus, the United States has perhaps been the one nation whose people have been most incompetent at surviving. It doesn’t help that our national leadership seems to be intent on running up the totals of people infected and killed by the virus. I become increasingly furious at people who act as if Covid-19 didn’t exist.

My friend Peter tells me of seeing a wedding rehearsal at a park in San Pedro consisting of some two hundred people, none of whom were wearing face masks. Using the plague’s mortality statistics, it is likely that two of the people present will lose their lives, and possibly more will come down with the virus who are friends and family of the attendees.

There appears to be a large population that couldn’t be bothered with protecting themselves from the coronavirus. Either they see themselves as invincible, or they are resentful of politicians who are trying to enforce the quarantine, or they are f—ing stupid.

Admittedly, I don’t like wearing a face mask. When I am driving or walking outside in such a way that I could swing around people I encounter, I don’t wear a mask. Indoors, however, there is a danger that someone could cough or sneeze or even talk in my direction; so I don my mask and grit my teeth.

On my kitchen table is an old Lonely Planet guide to Mexico that I page through every day. I have found dozens of places that look interesting to me, from Baja California to Sonora to the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad … and the list goes on and on. My fingers are crossed that the stupidity of my fellow Americans does not turn me into an involuntary shut-in.

 

 

 

 

 

Plague Diary 28: The Great MAGA Virus

Does Trump Really Want to Kill Off His Supporters?

With the coronavirus rising again, especially in the Southern states that have formed the core of the president’s base, I seriously wonder if the Donald is trying to kill off his staunchest supporters? While eating lunch, I happened upon an article by Fintan O’Toole in the May 14, 2020 issue of the New York Review of Books entitled “Vector in Chief” from which this quote is excerpted:

We must bear in mind that Trump’s “real people,” the ones who make up his electoral base, are disproportionately prone to the chronic illnesses (“the underlying conditions”) that make Covid-19 more likely to prove fatal. A 2018 Massachusetts General Hospital study of more than three thousand counties in the US reported that

poor public health was significantly associated with the additional Republican presidential votes cast in 2016 over those from 2012. A substantial association was seen between poor health and a switch in political parties in the last [presidential] election.

For every marker of the prevalence of poor health (such as diabetes, obesity, days of illness, and mortality rates), there as a marked shift roward voting for Trump. Trump has acted in relation to Covid-19 like the God who tells the Jews to mark their homes with a sign so that the plague he is inflicting on Egypt will pass by their doors—with the malign twist that he has marked out his own chosen people for special harm.

How ironic! Following the example of their Great White Hope in the Whitest of White Houses, the voters attending his rallies in Tulsa and Phoenix are mostly not masked, and sneezing and coughing and shouting streams of coronavirus throughout the crowd. So far, Trump appears to be immune, but that is helped by the fact that he is a germaphobe who washes his hands incessantly with hand sanitizer.

Fort Tejon

Reconstructed Enlisted Men’s Barracks at Fort Tejon

Near the top of the Grapevine along Interstate 5 is an old fort constructed soon after California joined the Union. Beginning in 1854, the fort was occupied by the U.S. 1st Dragoons to protect Southern California from the North and vice versa. Martine and I had been there a couple times before, but we were starved for some sort of destination. Although the Fort Tejon State Historical Park was open, all the buildings and their exhibits were closed in the interest of social distancing. Semi-open as it was, it was still interesting to wander around the premises looking at the reconstructed buildings.

First we drove to the mountain community of Frazier Park on the route to Mount Piños, at 8,847 feet (2,697 meters) the tallest mountain in nearby Ventura County. There, we ate at a little Mexican restaurant before doubling back to the I-5.

Entrance to Fort Tejon

There were never any real battles fought at Tejon—other than sham affairs involving re-enactors—and, what is more, as soon as Fort Sumter was fired upon, the 1st Dragoons were all shipped east, to be replaced by three companies of the 2nd California Volunteer Cavalry. There was some secessionist feeling in Southern California, but there was the staunchly Union Drum Barracks in Wilmington to keep Los Angeles in line. By September 1864, the Fort was decommissioned.

It was blisteringly hot at the Fort, despite the fact that we were a 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) altitude. The temperature was around 90° Fahrenheit (32° Celsius), but dropped down considerably as we returned to the Coast with its “June Gloom” marine layer.

The Buildings at Fort Tejon Looked to Be Made with Adobe Bricks

Most of the reconstructed buildings at Fort Tejon looked very authentic, being made with adobe bricks.

It was nice once again to have places to go, even with all the coronavirus restrictions in place.

Rights vs “Rats”

End Quarantine Protest in Huntington Beach

They are both the same word, but “rats” (R1) is the Southern Confederate drawl version of “rights” (R2). They do not, however, refer to the same thing. R1 people are likely to insist that this is a free country, meaning they are free to do anything they want, even if it causes harm, like shouting “Fire!” precipitating a riot in a crowded theater. They are free to think that whatever they believe is true, such as that Covid-19 is a lie.

Myself, I consider myself to be an R2 person. I have certain inalienable rights, but these stop short when they cause harm. If I fire an AR-15 automatic rifle into a crowd, the possibility of killing multiple people puts a limit on my “rats.” Likewise, going to a crowded bar, getting coronavirus, and passing the disease on to my friends and relatives, possibly killing several of them, is to my mind a criminal act.

Confederate Prisoners Fighting for Their “Rats”

I first stumbled onto the difference in a scene from the 1993 Ted Turner film Gettysburg, when C. Thomas Howell, playing the part of Lieutenant Thomas Chamberlain, comes across a group of Confederate prisoners and asks them what they were fighting for. He doesn’t quite understand their answer, that it wasn’t for slavery that they were fighting, but for their “rats,” making him wonder why they were talking about vermin. It’s interesting to me that one person’s rights could be seen as another person’s crimes.

I see Trump in a difficult position. The disease is a serious one, and at the same time the economy is in dire straits. On one hand, his return-to-work policy could result in tens of thousands of deaths, especially of those misguided people who believe in him. On the other, it could lose him his presidency if his followers get so an inkling of what is really happening.

 

Plague Diary 20: The Virus Mutates

As the Virus Mutates, the Symptoms Change

In a way, I hate writing about Covid-19. It seems that over 80% of the news on any given day is about the virus. One result is that most of us stay-at-homes are itching to get on with our lives. The pressure to do away with social distancing is growing from the top down, thanks to the current occupant of the White House. Suddenly, reasonable measures to contain the virus are being treated by protestors as violations of the constitution of of our God-given rights. (That last word, given a Southern drawl should come out pronounced as “rats”)

According to a CNN article released today, it seems the virus is mutating before our eyes and exhibiting a different array of symptoms, including:

  1. Aortic occlusions causing blood clots in the body’s main artery.
  2. Multi-system organ failure, when all the patient’s organs shut down at once.
  3. Pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome in which a child suffers “persistent fever, inflammation, poor function in one or more organs, and other symptoms that resemble shock.”
  4. “Covid toes,” in which red or purple lesions appear on the bottom side of the toes.

Based on conversations I have had with people, most think a vaccine is on the point of being developed that will allow all of us to return to work shortly. Please note, however, that the fastest a vaccine has ever been developed to fight a particular disease is four years, I suspect that if the coronavirus is mutating, it will probably take longer.

My prediction: As a result of social distancing, coronavirus will die down and then return in sudden outbreaks when the controls have been lifted. The people who are supporters of the President will, upon relaxing social constraints, be particularly likely to catch the disease in one of its new, more troubling configurations.

 

It’s Not Like Flicking a Switch

Abandoned City on Hashima Island, Near Nagasaki

Let me start by saying that I am no Pollyanna-ish prognosticator of Good News. The worldwide COVID-19 plague has wounded all economies to varying degrees, some of which may not return to “normal” for decades. I cannot help but think that most Americans in flyover country think that all the government has to do is flick a switch for us to return to the good old days before March 2020. I for one do not think it’ll be that easy.

What will inevitably happen is that the plague will settle most heavily on states which have gone off social distancing and quarantine too early. The people that Trump is most trying to help—his supporters in the South and Midwest—will die by the thousands, if not tens of thousands. Any attempt to return to “normal” too quickly will re-energize the plague as people go back to being in close contact with one another.

The governors of states like New York and California are for a more gradual approach. States with anti-science GOP governors, like Florida and Georgia, will suffer the consequences disproportionately.

 

 

 

Strange New World

Who Could Have Expected This?

When I returned from Mexico on February 7, it was to a vastly different reality—one that grew increasingly strange with each passing day. With the cancellation of music festivals, sporting events, live audiences, and even schools and libraries, it is a strange and unexpected new world in which I find myself.

Tomorrow night, Martine and I are attending an event given by the Kárpátok Hungarian Dance Ensemble, which we both love. It is not a large event, and Martine and I plan not to stay for the socializing after the folk dances. Even a week ago, I would not have been so conscious of the danger of contracting Covid-19. Now, alas, I am: I am a walking encyclopedia of pre-existing medical conditions, including panhypopituitarism, type II diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and a few others not so prominent. If I caught the virus, I would likely be at risk not to survive it.

It has been a particularly strange week, partly because of the draconian measures to minimize casual social contact, and partly because of a rare week-long “Pineapple Express” rain event which is leaving us with a certain degree of cabin fever.

At present, an average of 350 people per day are officially identified as having come down with Covid-19. I suspect the number is actually much larger because of the nationwide shortage of test kits. Supposedly, something is being done about this—but then I don’t usually expect competence or any degree of helpfulness from the Trump administration.

The only good news about the coronavirus is that it has all but chased the 2020 presidential election from the news. But it has not replaced it with anything more palatable.